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County businesses join call for government to invest in UK exporters

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

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EXPORTERS in Gloucestershire are throwing their weight behind a call for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to launch a voucher scheme to help businesses expand into overseas markets.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it continued to support the Government's deficit-busting plan but argued more should be done to help businesses and create jobs.

It suggests George Osborne should introduce an "export voucher" scheme to help businesses expand into international markets with minimum bureaucracy. Also, that the Government invests a further £100million per year to support UK exporters.

Ben Taylor, assistant chief executive of Wotton-under-Edge-based Renishaw, said he would welcome the support and this should include travel costs so businesses can carry out their own research abroad.

He said: "As a company that exported its products from day one and has benefited over almost 40 years from the spread of geographic risk and the growth of the global economy, we welcome any scheme that encourages UK businesses to venture overseas.

"Expert advice has always been important to us, but that advice may be found in local markets, so it is also important that any scheme has the flexibility to allow businesses to be supported in a variety of ways which may include overseas experts and travel costs.

"There is simply no substitute for visiting a target market to do your own research."

Chairman Colin Hygate, of Stonehouse-based Green Fuels, said even more could be done.

"I believe we also need a small-scale export credits guarantee scheme for contracts of less than £1million," he said.

"Like the suggested voucher scheme, it must be straightforward and easy to use. The words minimum bureaucracy are music to our ears. The current scheme is way too complicated for businesses of our relatively modest scale.

"We'd have to be doing deals of more than £10million to invest as much time as their application demands and that's just unrealistic. We need something a bit like the Government's small business loan guarantee scheme."

Among a number of initiatives, the BCC is proposing a £100million growth voucher scheme, which could give 20,000 businesses up to £5,000 each to negotiate the planning system, access advice on finance and expand staffing levels.

The BCC said: "Export vouchers would encourage businesses on the cusp of exporting, or looking to expand into new markets, to seek out and access the support they need, from public or private-sector sources, with minimum bureaucracy."

Together with growth vouchers, targeted export vouchers could build confidence and help kickstart the rebalancing of the UK economy, the chamber network added.

Steven Munnoch, CEO at Gloucester-based Avon Metals, said he believed any incentive to UK companies to export more was worthwhile.

"We live in a global economy and British companies of all sizes need to embrace this concept and spread their wings overseas if we are to keep a pace with developing countries."

The BCC proposes the Government invests a further £100m per annum in in-market support for UK exporters in 18 key global markets, linking businesses to new opportunities by adding in-country trade advisers, embedding them with British Chambers overseas, and implementing a quality accreditation scheme.

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